The alien Colonists were here since the dawn of man. The alien virus, the Black Oil, triggers a gestation of an alien creature that kills the human host; this is all news to the Syndicate, which feels betrayed. The Syndicate is international, lead by Conrad Strughold; it creates the infrastructure for the colonization, which will be the release of the virus on a global scale; genetically modified corn carries the virus, which is passed on to bees, which serve as the transportation means. Mulder & Scully, bored of their new assignments, are brought onto this through an attempted cover-up of infected bodies; this leads them to corn fields and bee hives in Texas. Scully is stung by a bee and is taken away by the Syndicate. Mulder is helped by a friend of his father's, Dr. Kurtzweil, who is silenced by the Syndicate. Before being killed also, the Well-Manicured Man gives Mulder the means to save Scully: Mulder travels to Antarctica, where a huge alien ship stores infected bodies underground; he injects Scully with the vaccine; both agents survive as the ship takes off. The X-Files are reopened while plans for colonization continue.
There it is, the X-Files bigger, longer and uncut theatrical feature film! As per Carter's plan after XF started gathering success, after 5 years of a fine career in television, the X-Files turn to the big screen -- but would return for a sixth season on top of that. From Washington to London and from dry Texas to icy Antarctica and the deserts of Tunisia, FTF does have a wider scope than TV! Director Rob Bowman did a good job at making the most out of the 16/9 aspect ratio, and gives us some magnificent shots of atmospheric urban landscapes at night. With a big budget, the film is less mysterious and minimalistic than the series but full of action and special effects; too much of it in fact, sometimes it feels as if TenThirteen sat down and did a checklist of all the big stuff TV hadn't allowed them to do.
Carter & Spotnitz wrote the story and started the script in the Christmas holidays of 1996-97, that is during season 4, right after 4X09: Tunguska & 4X10: Terma aired. That means the storylines for Scully's cancer arc and season 5 were pretty much settled by then! Fight the Future (which is only an unofficial name) tries to juggle between a hardcore mythology outing and a feature that could be understood by everyone. It's quite complicated for the action film movie-goer, but compared to other mythology episodes, it's actually straightforward and provides many more answers, leaving few open threads and dangling questions! Like 5X13: Patient X & 5X14: The Red and the Black before it and 6X11: Two Fathers & 6X12: One Son after it, FTF is where all the answers are given, in black and white.
The Colonists: the Black Oil aliens
Mulder's discussion with the Well-Manicured Man gives many explanations. As expanded in 6X22: Biogenesis, this virus, in whichever form, "was the original inhabitant of this planet": "This virus walked the planet long before the dinosaurs. [...] Your little green men arrived here millions of years ago. Those that didn't leave have been lying dormant underground since the last ice age in the form of an evolved pathogen, waiting to be reconstituted by the alien race when it comes to colonize the planet." Colonization is only the return of this alien race on a massive scale. The Black Oil has sentience, it counts no less of an alien being or Colonist than the greys themslves. Awaiting colonization, some of the Black Oil stayed behind on Earth, well hidden in underground caves for example, resurfacing only occasionally. Some primitive men had contact with it 37,000 years ago.
Eat The Corn: the bees and the corn
The bees were seen in previous episodes (4X01: Herrenvolk, 4X21: Zero Sum); here their purpose is finally explained: they carry the Black Oil virus. The virus is just the Black Oil, its genetic material without its vermiform appearance and its oil 'shell'; as established in 3X16: Apocrypha, the Black Oil is mainly constituted of hydrocarbons (different kinds of oil), but what makes it a separate alien entity is its genome, which if taken separately and injected in a host can act like a virus.
The bees are given the Black Oil 'virus' by pollinating corn crops; pollen is part of a bee's diet. The corn has been genetically modified to carry the virus in its own genome: "transgeneric crops that are polygenically altered to carry a virus". Here, the X-Files ingeniously tackle subjects of public fears which are topical and controversial, namely Genetically Modified Organisms. And which better and representative GMO than corn? GMOs are usually made by adding genes originating from more resistant bacteria, virii or parasites to the plant's genome, thus passing on antibiotic properties. "Transgeneric" refers to an exchange crossing between different species; "polygenically" refers to an ensemble of genes that work and interact together in providing a feature to the organism (something as complex as, for example, height or weight is not controlled by a single gene). Also, a species carrying genetic material passed on to them by digesting other species is not unheard of: it is called horizontal gene transfer. In 2000, it has been observed genetically modified plants passed on some of their genes to microorganisms living in the intestines of bees through the pollen the bees ingested; with such a virulent organism as the Black Oil, a similar transfer is more than possible!
The impending plague: colonization
Other vectors were considered by the Syndicate as well before settling on corn (the modified ginseng to carry the smallpox virus in 4X01: Herrenvolk). All over the world, the Syndicate creates giant GMO corn crops, along with giant underground bee hives topped by white domes. The domes and fields are situated on remote locations to prevent an untimely Black Oil virus outbreak. When the day of the colonization comes, the bees will be unleashed to the general population, simultaneously all over the world; "the plague to end all plagues". "The timetable has been set. It will happen on a holiday, when people are away from their homes." This echoes the Cigarette-Smoking Man's "the date is set" from 3X24: Talitha Cumi. We also know colonization will occur in 2012 (5X13: Patient X); the only holiday that is more and more followed internationally in our globalized world that adopts western traditions would be the Christmas holiday: December 25th. A quick search into Mayan and other mythologies turns out December 22nd 2012 as a very important date (there you go, 9X19/20: The Truth had no Great Revelation!). Following the general panic, "the president will declare a state of emergency, at which time all government, all federal agencies, will come under the power of the Federal Emergency Management Agency." Of course this applies to the USA, but the Syndicate's presence in other countries will assure some equivalent will happen all over the world. FEMA is an agency created in 1979 by President Carter, now mainly turned on coordinating response to natural disasters when local authorities are ovewhelmed; state governors are required to declare a state of emergency and hand over jurisdiction when requesting FEMA. After 9/11/2001, FEMA was absorbed into the newly created Department of Homeland Security. "FEMA, the secret government": the existence of a shadow government is a common theme in conspiracy theories. The Syndicate, hiding behind FEMA and its equivalents, would then effectively take over the world!
An international conspiracy: the Syndicate
The Syndicate, this shadowy organization, is here definitely proved to be world-wide. Its members all seem to be high-ranked members of their respective governments. The First Elder works with the Department of Defense (5X02: Redux); the Cigarette-Smoking Man seems to belong to the Department of Justice, but has ties to the DoD as well (presence at the FBI and 5X02: Redux); the Well-Manicured Man has a wealthy estate near London and could very well be a peer of the House of Lords; we have also seen Italian, Japanese and German members to the Syndicate (2X25: Anasazi). The Syndicate's head offices, and also its headquarters for America, are in New York (close to other seats of power such as the UN building or Washington); its regional headquarters in Europe are in London, England; for Africa most likely in Tunis, Tunisia.
Its leader is Conrad Strughold, a german industrialist. His name and general background aren't given in the film: this information comes from Carter's 'hidden' speech in the FTF score. This is a theatrical movie, and as such there are more 'official' sources and released paraphernalia than for a simple TV episode, information can be gathered not just from what was filmed. Strughold is a name that also pops up in real history: Hubertus Strughold was a german scientist that experimented on humans and helped NASA in various fields of space medecine, notably in the development of the pressure suit. He entered the USA through Operation Paperclip; he was one of the inspirations for Victor "the butcher" Klemper in Paper Clip.
Conrad Strughold is not unknown to us, in some sense: the mining facility with "lots and lots of files" in 3X02: Paper Clip belongs to the "Strughold Mining Company"; who would have thought that such a small detail would have been picked up 3 years later! And indeed Carter had declared that FTF would deal with one of the men in the 1973 picture Mulder found in 3X01: The Blessing Way: one of them was Strughold (though of course the actor Mueller-Stahl was not contracted back then).
The hidden agendas: the gestation revelation
With the Texas incident and the discovery for the first time of such abundant samples of Black Oil, the Syndicate discovers the true purpose of the Colonists: "spontaneous repopulation"; infection leads to the creation of an EBE and the elimination of its host. Up until now, the Syndicate thought that the Black Oil would take over the humans and control them, as in 3X16: Apocrypha; the human race would survive, though as hosts; WMM: "Until Dallas we believed the virus would simply control us, that mass infection would make us a slave race. Imagine our surprise when they began to gestate."
"They've been using us all along! We've been labouring under a lie!" This is a complete reversal of the situation which forces the Syndicate to "reconsider [its] place in colonization".
The hidden agendas: the vaccine
The final decision is that "We'll continue to use them as they do us. If only to play for more time, to continue work on our vaccine." Indeed, just as the Colonists didn't tell the whole truth to the Syndicate, the Syndicate hides from them a possible means of resistance to the Black Oil: a vaccine. Since Krycek turned over the Russian research to the Syndicate, the vaccine has been improved. In The Red and the Black, the vaccine took hours to purge the human host of the weakened Black Oil from Tunguska. Here, the vaccine acts immediately on Scully, who was infected with a most potent Black Oil strain. However, the vaccine is still not perfect and wouldn't allow for a resistance against the Colonists: "a weak vaccine against the virus Agent Scully has been infected with. It must be administered within 96 hours."
Mulder, with the help of the WMM, injects the vaccine into Scully and contaminates the alien environment of the ship ("There's a contaminant in the sytem!"). The CSM, who is aware of the vaccine and knows that Mulder is around, deducts their very own vaccine is responsible. But what do the Colonists deduct from this contaminant? The effects are immediate and equivalent to the activation of the ship for colonization; steam, heat, defrosting of the pods and awakening of age-old gestating aliens; the ship breaks free of its icy shell and takes off, unknown to where. Whether this influenced the Colonists' relations with the Syndicate is unclear, especially since similar incidents lethat for the Black Oil could have been naturally occuring (8X16: Vienen).
The Dallas cover-up
After the Texan boys discover the cave with the Black Oil in the small town of Blackwood, Texas, four firemen are infected as well. "Blackwood" was the codename TenThirteen was using for the film while in production, a most intriguing title. The Syndicate immediately dispatches a FEMA unit to take care of it, limiting public exposure as much as possible; such outbreaks enter in the normal jurisdiction of FEMA. The outbreak is explained to the media as an outbreak of the Hanta virus ("FEMA was called out to manage an outbreak of the Hanta virus", newspaper headline: "Fatal Hanta Virus Outbreak In Northern Texas Contained"). Mulder makes reference to a similar previous outbreak: "a deadly virus spread by field mice in the southwestern United States several years ago"; indeed, in mid-1993, a Hantavirus-like virus carried by rodents was responsible for the death of 27 people in the SW states. At Blackwood, FEMA's Dr. Bronschweig is the contact with the Syndicate onsite; this is another german name, but he is too young to have previous ties with the Nazi regime (Wir sind alle Berlineren, but 3 new characters for the film all with german names is obsessive!). The FEMA personnel use biohazard suits to access the cave; contrary to the firemen, they're all unharmed by the Black Oil. That is an inconsistency if one considers the Black Oil can cross a biohazard suit (4X09: Tunguska). The biohazard suits would be useless in defense against it, but they are very effective at making the public gathered around the site to believe this is a genuine Hantavirus outbreak (yes, Bronschweig uses it inside the cave too, which really is an inconsistency... that's the danger of writing for something that's so dangerous and powerful that it can hardly be dealt with afterwards). A base is quickly built over the cave and the Black Oil is pumped out.
Judging from the state of the firemen's bodies, the development of the creature alien inside their bodies had already started but was cut short by Bronschweig & co. How they did that is unclear: killing the host must kill the gestating alien as well, but what about the Black Oil? Perhaps it dies as well, just as with the infected patients of Boca Raton (4X10: Terma). The bodies of the other 3 firemen and of Stevie were transferred to FEMA's "provisional medical quarantine office" in the neighbouring Dallas in order to be disposed of. The cover up for their death was simply blowing up the buidling, posing as a terrorist bombing. This is going a very, very long way to dispose of a few bodies -- this is surely a weak plot point. "Fossils" of the primitive men and most likely of the alien found in the cave, further compromising evidence, are also moved to those offices. "This all goes back to Dallas": the Dallas setting might be a nod to the place where all modern conspiracy theories were born with President Kennedy's shooting in 1963.
Kurtzweil's help and Mulder's eternal nosiness brought him and Scully to the Bethesda Naval Hospital, where they found the bodies, which prompts the Syndicate to eliminate Kurtzweil and act against Mulder by harming Scully (as implied by Strughold's "take away what he holds most valuable. That with which he can't live without."). After Mulder turned down the CSM's offer in 5X03: Redux II, the CSM no longer acts internally in the Syndicate to protect Mulder; Mulder and Scully are once again dispensable and as ordinary as any other insubordinate civilians for the Syndicate. How the Syndicate was to proceed is unclear, since it's a long series of coincidences that lead Scully in the Syndicate's hands! Mulder and Scully's wandering in Texas roads and random choice of going straight instead of left or right, their entering of a dome and the release of the bees, the stubborness of a single bee to cling on Scully's clothes, and the same bee's nervousness that has Scully bitten and infected. Another plot hole...
Fight the future: Kurtzweil
Mulder is contacted by Dr. Alvin Kurtzweil, an OB-GYN (obstetrician-gynecologist), "an old friend of your father's": "Back at the Department of State we were what you might call fellow travelers". The reference to 'fellow travelers' is only incidentally referring to American communists, Kurtzweil just humorously uses this description to describe his complicity with Bill. (Fox) Mulder finds proof that Kurtzweil was a friend of the family by seeing a picture of him in a family album, in what looks like a sunday barbecue in the cottage at Quonochontaug (3X24: Talitha Cumi). Kurtzweil: "When we were young men in the military, your father and I were recruited for a project. They told us it was biological warfare, a virus." Kurtzweil has a good knowledge of the Syndicate, of the colonization and the "viral apocalypse" it entails. Bill Mulder and Kurtzweil were recruited in the group originating in the State Department that eventually evolved into the Syndicate (3X16: Apocrypha teaser). Kurtzweil's experience as a doctor proved useful in understanding the alien biological menace; following the 1973 agreement, he must have used his knowledge of gynecology in the research to create an alien/human hybrid (in a project similar to the one in 5X07: Emily for example), in coordination of other Syndicate founding doctors such as Victor Klemper (3X02: Paper Clip) or Eugene Openshaw (6X11: Two Fathers).
Some time after 1973, Kurtzweil left the Syndicate, probably because he was disagreeing with the collaborationist nature of the organization; he probably left at the same time as Bill Mulder and Deep Throat did. He isn't fully aware of the Syndicate operations involving the corn and the bees because those were developed after his departure ("You told me you had answers!" "Yeah, well…I don’t have them all!"). He spent his time writing books involving conspiracy theories and an impending apocalypse, their subject basically being freely inspired by his own experience with the Syndicate, barely disguised in fictional form ("The Four Horsemen Of The Global Domination Conspiracy", “Countdown to the Apocalypse”). Kurtzweil's illuminated writings seem to be inspired, among other things, by Milton William Cooper, a conspiracy theorist popular in the 1980s-1990s, who pushed ideas of the New World Order, the UFO conspiracy, the Kennedy assassination and Illuminati and Zionist world domination into the mainstream; Kurtzeil's line "a silent weapon for a quiet war" is exactly his, from his novel "Behold a Pale Horse" (1991)! Note that Cooper's name appears on the back of the Syndicate ambulance that takes Scully away. If you're into that kind of thing, check out the books Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson's "The Illuminatus! Trilogy" (1975) and Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum" (1988). Kurtzweil was allowed to publish such things because the Syndicate thought that such "end-of-the-world apocalyptic garbage " would only feed the general fear and be of service to the disinformation campaign of the DoD (5X02: Redux): WMM: "No one believes Kurztweil or his books. He's a toiler, a crank."
Fight the future: the Well-Manicured Man and Mulder's father
Mulder is not only helped by Kurtzweil, but also by the Well-Manicured Man. Two informants for an FBI investigator is really much! That's one of the flaws of the later mythology episodes, which are no longer investigations but 'catching up with how quickly events unfold': Krycek tells Mulder of the Rebels in The Red and the Black, the WMM tells Mulder of colonization in Fight the Future, the CSM tells Mulder of the Syndicate in One Son. The story is explained to us rather than unraveled by the protagonsists.
The CSM, for FTF alone, plays the role of the bad guy without depth, the ruthless antagonist to the good hero -- after all, the CSM and Mulder's relationship would have been too complicated to explain to a new audience. The WMM joins Bill Mulder in those who were willing to "fight the future" but were murdered by the collaborationist Syndicate. The torch is passed down to Mulder. One must admit that FTF is much more a Mulder show than a team show; Scully barely has any scenes by herself, she gets abducted and saved by the hero Mulder... and at the end, it's Scully who commits to Mulder's quest -- almost as a sidekick, not as an equal partner -- even if it's Scully that pulls Mulder back from his defeated mood. The focus on Mulder is more than conventional Hollywood machism that dictates a male lead: FTF is centered around the mythology, which is to a greater extent centered around Mulder's character. This is counterbalanced by Scully becoming more important in the X-Files' second theatrical outing ten years later.
Mulder's determination and Scully's backing with scientific expertise make them the perfect duo to fight for public exposure of the Syndicate's plans. Mulder confesses "you've made me a whole person". This admission of a deep mutual respect and of what was up till now pretty much a healthy platonic relationship lead to the infamous near-kiss in the hallway; playing the romance card was normal enough at the time, and consistent with Carter's previous declarations that nothing would come between them unless it were in the final episode or in a theatrical film. What makes it look bad in retrospect is the length the series continued afterwards: with the impossibility of presenting an active couple making scary investigations at the same time, it lead to an incredibly over-extended period of unresovled sexual tension.
The Syndicate conducts multiple cover-ups at the end: the sealing of the Blackwood cave, the burning of the Texas corn fields, the rerouting of the Black Oil tankers, the theft of the fossils from the Dallas FBI offices by the Black-haired Man... But Scully still makes her case before the Office of Professional Review and presents them with the only concrete evidence left: "I don't believe the FBI currently has an investigative unit qualified to pursue the evidence in hand." The closing of the X-Files (5X20: The End) had Mulder turning on drinking and Scully considering quitting the FBI instead of being reassigned (what's so bad about Salt Lake City, Utah, anyway? :p). The Dallas case prompted the reopening of the X-Files. Even if this was an FBI decision, the CSM still had his own say as to which agents would be assigned there (see The Beginning). The CSM's breach of proper "regular channels" by directly going to see Strughold in Tunisia serves as a coda to the film. Strughold says of the Mulder problem: "What has he seen? Of the whole he has seen but pieces." This echoes the WMM in Paper Clip ("Is there more?" "More than you'll ever know"), the Alien Bounty Hunter in Herrenvolk ("He [Jeremiah] shows you pieces, but tells you nothing of the whole") and the CSM himself in Redux II ("He [Kritschgau]'s seen but scant pieces of the whole"). The camera rises to reveal more corn fields, signs of a Kafkaesque future that is too vast, too well protected and too much prepared for resistance to have a fighting chance. "One man alone cannot fight the future", but yet that's what Mulder did in Antarctica by trying to save "that with which he can't live without": Scully. Together, Mulder and Scully are more than just one man.
Bronschweig (on phone): "Sir, the impossible scenario that we never planned for? Well, we better come up with a plan.
Scully: "I had you big time." x2
Scully: "You're buying."
Mulder: "What? Coke, Pepsi, saline IV?"
Mulder: "Spooky Mulder, whose sister was abducted by aliens when he was just a kid and who now chases after little green men with a badge and a gun, shouting to the heavens or to anyone who will listen that the fix is in, that the sky is falling and when it hits it's gonna be the shit-storm of all time."
Bronschweig: "And if it's unsuccessful?"
Cigarette-Smoking Man: "Burn it, like the others."
Kurtzweil: "The plague to end all plagues, Agent Mulder. A silent weapon for a quiet war. The systematic release of an indiscriminant organism for which the men who will bring it on still have no cure! They've been working on this for fifty years! While the rest of the world have been fighting gooks and commies, these men have been secretly negotiating a planned armageddon! [...]
Bronschweig: "So much for little green men."
Strughold: "Cooperation is the only chance of saving ourselves."
Scully: "Well, we're FBI Agents."
Kid: "You're not FBI Agents."
Mulder: "How do you know?"
Kid: "Cause ya'll look like door-to-door salesmen."
Mulder (pulls out badge): "Hey, you wanna buy a badge?"
Mulder: "But you saved me! As difficult and as frustrating as it's been sometimes, your goddamned strict rationalism and science have saved me a thousand times over! You've kept me honest. You've made me a whole person. I owe you everything, Scully, and you owe me nothing."
Well-Manicured Man: "Survival is the ultimate ideology."
Well-Manicured Man: "Trust no one, Mr. Mulder."
Well-Manicured Man: "Find Agent Scully. Only then will you realize the scope and grandeur of the project."
Scully: "I don't believe the FBI currently has an investigative unit qualified to pursue the evidence in hand."
Scully: "Mulder, I'll be a doctor, but my work is here with you now. That virus that I was exposed to, whatever it is, it has a cure. You held it in your hand. How many other lives can we save? Look... If I quit now, they win."
Cigarette-Smoking Man: "He's seen more than he should have."
Strughold: "What has he seen? Of the whole he has seen but pieces."
Cigarette-Smoking Man: "He's determined now. Reinvested."
Strughold: "He is but one man. One man alone cannot fight the future."